Lapsed Trekkie Still Angry About B5 Laserdiscs

I’m currently a lapsed Trekkie, I guess. I don’t have copies of any of the Episodes of any Star Trek Series, in any format, other than the mpg’s that I’m pulling off the air on both The CW Austin and TV Land.

We sold the few laserdisc copies of episodes at the Las Vegas convention The Wife went to. I think she got 25 bucks for the first season of Star Trek and all of the Babylon 5 disks that were made. Compare that to the much larger amount that we spent obtaining those disks, and you begin to understand the disgust I feel right now. C’est la vie.

I’m waiting for everyone to sell off their old copies of the Star Trek DVD’s so that I can get a copy of my own on the cheap.


The fact that I don’t own a copy of Star Trek in any format can be blamed directly on my experiences with attempting to collect a more recent series, Babylon 5. I had a few choice words for Warner Brothers over that debacle.

To Whom it May Concern:

I noticed that the B5 episodes are coming out on DVD. I’d like to state, for the record: I love B5, it is one of the best SF shows ever to see broadcast. I would also like to state, for the record: I will not be buying the DVD’s until season 3 is available due to previous experiences with Warner Bros. and video releases of B5.

We were told, when the laserdisk format episodes were released, that all the episodes would be available in that format, that there wasn’t going to be a release on DVD (I believe they said ‘ever’), and that the widescreen formats DID NOT EXIST (even though we had been assured by those who worked on the production that the shooting was done that way). This was all told to us by representatives of WB.

My wife and I foolishly, in hindsight, bought LD’s as they came out, instead of waiting for them all to be available. WB only released seasons 1 & 5, half of 2, and half of 4. None of 3 ever saw LD format. If you add it up, 40 bucks a disk, 12-14 disks a season, that comes to about $1700 that was wasted on those disks, which are worthless now; worthless, not because the format is dead (I generally watch a laserdisk at least two times a week) but because the series is incomplete, and is missing THE BEST EPISODES.

Time pases, SciFi shows the episodes, and low and behold, the widescreen versions do indeed exist. Now they are releasing the ‘entire series’ again, this time on DVD’s, one season at a time.

As the saying goes “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I’ll wait for the episodes I need to make a complete set. I’ll be glad to make a even trade with WB, episode for episode, for all of the B5 that I already own on LD format. From where I’m sitting, ya’ll would be getting quite a bargain…

Sincerely,
-R.Anthony Steele

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


I own the Babylon 5 DVD’s, because they were all released in that format. The funds wasted on the Laserdisks have left a sour taste in my mouth when it comes to attempting to collect other television programs in any format.

Just when I was ready to spring for Star Trek DVD’s, the remastered versions show up, as well as the newly conceived format of HD-DVD. And I get that feeling that I’ve wasted money…

One…

More…

Time…

So, once again, I’m not buying anything else media related until I know what the eventual result of the format wars will be. When ya’ll (the bigwhigs in the media conglomerations) figure out which end is up, let the rest of us know, will you? Until then, I’m duping on-air copies of programs and burning them to disk myself.

Of course, they could offer to upgrade previously purchased media to the new format (as I suggested they do with the B5 Laserdisks) but I’m sure they don’t see any reason to cut into their profits and offer to make good on their take on intellectual property rights (as in I don’t have the right to duplicate my purchased copies of their intellectual property for my own use)
and guarantee that the average user (me) doesn’t need to duplicate their copy protected material in order to keep using our purchased copies.

Consequently, I don’t see any need to run out and line their pockets with money that I can ill afford to spend right now, purchasing copies of media that will be defunct and in need of replacement a few years down the road.

The cost of digital cable and blank DVD media is a bargain in comparison.

DRM: Moderate?

I’m apparently a moderate on the subject. According to this Information Week story:

Calling themselves freedom fighters, members of the Free Software Foundation are engaging in a campaign against Digital Rights Management, which they emphatically refer to as Digital Restrictions Management.

Everytime I hear the phrase freedom fighter, I think of the old Robin Williams joke “What do you call people who fight fires? Fire fighters. So, what does a freedom fighter do?” Aside from that, I wish them luck.

DRM is the most Ill-conceived technological nightmare to come along in a long time. I’d like nothing more than to see the entire concept flushed along with the rest of the waste…

DRM: Who’s Rights are They?

The announcement from Universal last week brought up the subject of DRM, a sore spot for me and most of the people who listen to online music. But you would think that it had been smooth sailing for all these online years, if you believed the arguments that I’ve seen over the last week.

Napster and it’s overseas descendants aren’t and never were a problem, MP3.com wasn’t virtually hounded off the ‘net for daring to exercise fair use, DRM is a completely logical exercise of the rights holders over copyrighted material, which presents no problems to the end users who purchase the material.

…And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell you.

First off, let’s get a few definitions straight. The term piracy, as it is used in software circles these days, is a completely unworkable definition. Piracy involves profiting through theft, not copying files. While it can be argued that the end user ‘profits’ from copying files that he has not paid for, that sort of profiting is in a whole different league from the person who sells CDs and DVDs (and even the computer files themselves) that he’s made without license from the copyright holder. However, there is no distinction between the two in the eyes of Microsoft (and the other corporate software vendors) the RIAA and the MPAA; a completely ridiculous proposition on the face of it.

Then there is the term contract, in which the software industry claims their EULAs and online contracts are no different than a printed, signed and witnessed contract of a truly legal nature. However, if you trotted out the verbiage contained in the average EULA, I doubt you’d find many people willing to commit to the agreement, since the agreement invariably holds the software company innocent of any possible wrongdoing, while setting up a legal fence around the user so as to tightly constrain what uses the material can be put to.

Here is a piece of timely advice; never sign a contract that has been written by an attorney other than one in your employ without first having an attorney who is in your employ look it over. Contracts are always negotiable by both parties if they are to be considered valid. When you sign your name to a contract you agree to the terms, thereby waiving your right to negotiate terms in advance. A EULA does not allow for physical signatures and so consequently are not really contracts at all.

Additionally, any contract that you have to accept without negotiation is a contract that no one should hold themselves constrained by, since they had no say in what the exact contents of the contract would be.

Now when it comes to EULA’s I have to ask; Do you support the dishonest business practice of attempting to hold a customer to a contract that isn’t presented until after the transaction has taken place, or are you an honest businessman who presents the contract before any other business occurs? Anyone who thinks that it is commonplace and acceptable to withhold conditions of a sale until after the transaction has taken place is by definition a dishonest businessman. Honesty requires full disclosure before the sale. Restrictions that are revealed after the sale is finalized are not enforceable, as they are generally held to be outside of current law, and are a violation of the standard of full disclosure. In a nutshell, it is a dishonest and/or fraudulent business practice to withhold this type of information.

With the above as the generally understood standard of doing business, that contracts which I have not explicitly agreed to in writing are not binding, and that contracts that are not revealed until after the sale is finalized are not enforceable…

…Should I be faulted for holding the opinion that “All sales are final. The files are mine. Anything they have to say about my treatment of my files after that point is a claim. There is no agreement, other than cash for music files. There was no other legal contract presented.” and stripping the DRM from files that I had paid for and wished to listen to on a device of my choosing?

Apparently I am to be faulted. At least in the eyes of the people who plan on making money off of the legally clueless out there.

Fair use allows the user to make copies of copyrighted material for his own use. My own use requires that I strip the DRM from music files sold on most popular websites. If the websites attempted to enforce the contract terms, they would only alienate their customer base; ergo, it is nothing more than a paper tiger, never to be enforced except to remove individual user accounts.

…And if I can’t actually make the files usable, I don’t know why I would need an account in the first place.

The last definition that needs clarification: DRM, Digital Rights Management. The corporations that own the content have rights (which DRM manages) but you the user don’t. You have privileges that they can take away if they please. Welcome to the digital millennium.

My experience with the difficulty of using iTunes (and other DRM restricted services) has convinced me that DRM regimes are soon to be a thing of the past. It’s also convinced me that I will spend money on sites that don’t add DRM to the files. Sites like Sound Click for example. I don’t need to go to full out piracy sites (I find real pirates and their practices quite distasteful) I have no problem going down to the used CD store and getting the music I’m looking for at less than the dollar a song most sites are charging. I might download songs from Universal’s announced site, but only if I can remove the DRM.

Which brings us to the crux of the problem. The only way to make DRM enforceable is to appoint an ultimate Sys-Admin, a company that has the power to open back doors on all the computers currently in operation, and snoop through the files to make sure that no one is using files that they haven’t paid for. A job that Microsoft desperately wants to be given, as they quite eagerly pointed out when they announced the rollout of Longhorn (now Vista) two or three years ago. A big brother situation that I shudder to contemplate.

Otherwise DRM is an unworkable solution in the long term. As more content becomes available on the ‘net, more and more of it will appear shortly after it’s initial release with DRM, sans it’s protective wrapper, ready to be copied by anybody who doesn’t have an aversion to dealing with pirates.

Might as well just come up with a different solution now, save us all the hassle.

Universal is Having a Fire Sale; or it would be, except for DRM

Universal is going to offer it’s entire music catalog on Spiralfrog with ad supported free downloads. Free, except that the content will be protected with MicroSoft’s DRM regime. I only have one question; how long before the DRM stripper program shows up? It’s probably already being written, and then patched, and then re-written.

I’ve yet to figure out how a file is mine when I purchase it, if I can’t play it when and where I like. That’s the stumbling block for me signing on to any of these new sites that are being touted. Hell, I don’t even own an iPod, why would I pay for songs that only play on one?

Here’s some news for you, Universal; You should have signed on when MP3.com was the powerhouse it started out to be, instead of thumbing your noses at the upstart site that dared to exercise fair use, and offer streaming content for people who could prove they owned copies of the music. There might have been some significant ad revenue to compensate the artists then.

I know several independent artists that are still nostalgic for those bygone days when they actually received checks for song play at MP3.com. Nothing has come along since that even remotely compares to it.

Ad revenues being what they are these days on the Internet, can a new entry like Spiralfrog generate enough revenue to compensate artists for their work? Or will this be the usual corporate media arrangement, where only the suits in offices get paid?

There aren’t any sites that can compete with the traffic that MP3.com could generate, and now the corporate types finally get it. “Oh, it’s like radio!” Yeah, I think we said that a few years back.

What a waste.

Sony: What do they do for the pirates?

Have you heard the wonderful things that Sony is doing for people who legitimately purchase music on disk these days? Seems they install software on your system that hijacks your hardware and attempts to prevent you from copying their disks. Unfortunately it opens the system up for other malicious uses, not to mention voiding ‘fair use’ for all intents and purposes.

Seems to me you wouldn’t want to punish the people who pay you money for your product, something I’ve meticulously done when music that I like is available on disk. You know, plan A: follow the law, reward the creative types with the money they deserve for creating the music we enjoy; doing the “right thing”. After Sony’s little fiasco, I think I’ll go with plan “B” from now on.

As someone who does computer maintenance as a sideline, I’ve seen what it takes to clean up a hijacked system like they are describing. It’s called “Fdisk, format, reinstall”. If that’s what you get for following the rules and purchasing music from the RIAA supporting music vendors, then I think I’m a rule breaker from here on out.

This is what you get for letting the corporations dictate policy for you, as the link under the RIAA above points out. Snooping bastards poking around in all the nooks and crannies on your system just to make sure you don’t have a secret copy of Bob Dylan’s version of “Watchtower” (or heaven forbid anything by Metallica) out there that you didn’t actually pay for.

Do any of us need that?

I’m thinking of digging out all my old vinyl and re-mastering the content to MP3 just for the hell of it now. All those old Barry Manilow and Earth, Wind and Fire albums in fresh new MP3 format. That’ll show ’em, right?


The Sony BMG rootkit scandal is finally winding down.

The settlement that Sony has agreed to includes a payment of 150 dollars to anyone who can show damage due to the rootkit, as well as replacement of any CD’s which contain the rootkit. I hope the rest of the media companies are paying attention to this.

Yahoo story, ARS story